Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rabbit Investigates - Murder at Grimseys Road?

"If it bleeds it leads" is the newspaper publishing ethic (ahem) and the dwatted wabit realises he is currently only scoring a "D" for yellow-shade journalism. Sure, his webblog is fill of lots of local bodies, even a few local body politicians with knives in their back, but not really the gore one would expect to keep readers titillated and coming back for more.That is until I got on the old investigative trail again, cleverly disguised in best film noir fashion with a trilby hat, and my garbedine trench coat collar pulled up. I take an early Saturday misty-morning bus ride up to the top Grimseys Road - not visited since my bus driving days back in the eighties. Here is the rabbit remembering the time a Christchurch Transport Board Bristol bus - painted like Cadbury's Chocolate box - had a bite taken out of it by a major collision at Prestons Road intersection. Typically he is no longer able remember who was driving. It seems every lamp post will tell you a story if you drive around a city long enough.

But what's the plot today? Putting two and two together I see on the crumpled map the blonde dame gave me, that this large area of housing around Grimseys Road was severed at the waist (shades of the Black Dahlia case), cut off from the new Styx Mill area, and not by a river of blood but rather by the sweetly charming, meandering, Styx River and reserve. Styx? What is this, anotherTom Waits song? Eat your heart out rest of the world, our suburbs offer gothic horror and Greek tragedy all in one, thanks to the classical background of some of our early Oxford graduate pioneer sons. Now according to this scrap of paper this dame shoved in my paw, there is one one very large block of housing adjoining Grimseys Road, an elongated triangle of river bed and reserve, paddocks and then Radcliffe Road feeding into the very large shopping centre planned for the junction of Radcliff Road and Main North Road. The gossip around town and in the sleeziest bars is that there a major new library is also intended for the new block. And the Supa Centre is no small corner shop either. Willie the squeaker has even told his old friend the rabbit that there are moves by Ecan to get adequate bus exchange/transfer point facility included in the design. Well as Mandy said, "They would, wouldn't they". But how to get across the Styx? There seems to be an achilles' heel somewhere in this plot! The rabbits in a stew, part carrot and part mangled metaphors and he knows it.

So I asks this kid on a tricycle, "Hey what gives kid?" "Mister don cha know they is gonna built the norten motorway clean down the eastern side of our area". Aha. There's motive here anyway. A motorway - we'll my old drinking buddy Mr "Booze" Alan had them tagged a few years ago - no transport infrastructure in New Zealand pays it's real costs, good old Johnny Taxpayer gets held up every year to meet the billion dollar shortfall in real costs, including yours truly that rarely hops in a car but pays $3-400 a year for others to do so (as does my granddaughter and yours). And Etcetera's kids too.

"Kid," I said "You're talking highway robbery". The little brat squinted at me. "Hey mister, you aint trying cut out my boy racer career, just as soon as I graduate to long pants. That investment is my future."

The poor little bugger breastfed on the bullshit of our society -"investment" for roads for cars, "subsidies" for public transport, guess whose calling the shots, the car addicts twisting words to suit their case. Now I look at the map this dame has given me and see there aint no way cars can get down to this area except through junctions with Prestons Road, off the motorway (or beside it) or off Main North Road, all a bit of extra mileage and traffic light queues, fairly clumsy, all in all. An opportunity to give buses an advantage? Truth is I have been thinking for a long time this case could be closed by building a bus only corridor straight across from the top of Grimseys Road, curving across to meet Radcliffe Road before the railway crossing, with an (attractive) stone embankment and bridge across the gully and stream. But now I am here, now Google Earth has actually come to earth I find another of those damn quasi gated upmarket subdivisions plonk in the way. This one is called Redwood Park (you guessed it, it is one of those types of subdivision where they chop down the trees and then give the streets their names). There is a road straight through to the reserve, a boulevard (ok ok, with new trees) and de fenceless USA style lawns - but so narrow and intimate in style that in short their aint no way anyone is politically gonna drive a bus through here, though presumably the street came out of public funds. I put two and two together and it comes out about ten - that's probably about the mumber of new ostentatious, "keep out Mr Burglar and your son Idle Tagger", gate posted communities built around the edge of Christchurch in the last decade. In other words when it comes to public transport we are dealing with a serial killer stalking the outskirts of Christchurch - yep, just as I feared (cue creepy music; dum de dum) - another case of strangulation by commuter belt!!  I recognise the modus operandi. But this much bigger than an Italian motor scooter.  A couple of years ago vigilante gangs armed with nothing but arrogance tried to take over publicly built streets in Northwood, claiming territorial right to their neighbourhood, and scared off a straggle of politicians and bus planners. But this rabbit wasn't born yesterday! Everytime an investigation takes him into a cul de sac, there sure is a lot of them, everytime he runs up against a brick wall (usually with big brass numbers) the question pops up, "Whose pulling the strings, making this happen or turning a blind eye - allowing subdivisions without clear bus corridors, indeed enhanced direct alley way access to stops from streets behind streets? Who are the real hoods behind these hoods?"

City hall? The rabbit keeps his ears to the ground (not easy with his perky breed). And what he hears tell is the overly large influence of the Green-Darling family, who themselves are related to those famous medical fraudsters, the Doctors Spinn. Big on talk, fancy words, but slow and small on their feet. The spin is bigger than the footprint on the ground. Opportunity after opportunity slips by - this rabbits been staking out city growth for a decade now - opportunity for a council fully committed to public transport to lay down a few ground rules [every road classified as a feeder road is also automatically classified as bus service suitable - that is what you buy into, no retro arguments please]. Opportunity, too, to buy bits of judicious land between cauliflower ear crescent patterns to let buses straight through, and to say to developers "Man make as many fancy stone gates as you want but somewhere in that mosaic there must be is a central or peripheral bus corridor, easily accessible from all points. Modern buses barely make a noise much greater than a small pick-up, and at the outer terminals who gets on but the immediate neighbours (God forbid you might even get to know them at the stop). Hey wake up,  the tagged fences in those neighbourhoods won't be by immigrants from poor areas, how naive - they will be your bored and rebellious sons and daughters!

Thinks the rabbit - congestion aint just proportional, 50% slower; it's absolute - add 50% to a 10 min journey - what's five minutes? Nut'n. Now add 50% to 30 minute journey, you lose 30 minutes a day. And so on. His fluffy paw clenches unconsciously. Ya have to hit congestion where it hurts most - and will cost most - out in the outer burbs, chomp into those longer journeys. That's the rabbit's martial art training coming in. Watch that big foot tapping. Plan now to jump [rabbit think] across the inner suburbs rather than drag through them, bus lanes or not. There's a lot of misty green talk about how wonderful we are in city hall but methinks this dame doth prattle on too much . This Green-Darling family seem to be taking more than a few for a ride - it just aint going to be by fast direct bus corridors.

Actually the dime store detective thought the Redwood Park area overlooking the Styx reserve and river area was particularly beautiful, what a lovely outlook and such a neat wild zone for older children to play in, willow trees, long grass and stream bed, the places kids need to make the own world. It would anyway have been a crime to build an embankment/ bridge at the middle point!! I think the busway link should cut down beside the motorway and enter the Grimseys Road block near the top from the eastern side, two or three properties would secure it, several options, then run straight down Grimseys Road, under QEII Drive (beside the cycle subway) and passed the end of Winters Road, ramping up and over Cranford Street and on a slight embankment across the flood plain paddocks, joining up with City-Edgeware-Northlands bus corridor along the eastern edge of the very attractive new park created by extending Rutland Reserve up to Grassmere Street, with a fenced, shrub covered busway running around the eastern edge.

Strangulation doesn't always kill instantly [not like the old rabbit chop! Hey,wash your mouth out!] and we still have a few minutes left for revival. Tick tock tick tock - the clock is going fast to built a world class city before rigor mortis locks up the outlets that will stop rthe big red blood supply pumping between centre and outer suburb. Distance from Bealey Avenue to Belfast via Northlands Caledonia Road-Rutland Street busway, veering northwards immediately past Paparoa Street, onto the embankment over Cranford, down past the Winters Road enclave, under Grimseys, onto Grimseys Road, around the edge of the motorway onto Radcliff Road - about 6 or 7 km. Non-stop travelling time by express buses - from West Belfast (to be built), Belfast, East Belfast (to be built) , Rangiora, Woodend, Pegasus, Kaiapoi (all growing rapidly) - about 8-10 minutes max, from Radcliffe Road and Main North Road corner to city, steady speed nothing fast. But no stops! Current journey from Belfast (with bus lanes) to Bealey Avenue all stops 20 minutes hopefully [the timetable] in reality as long as 24 minutes just from Northlands to city with bus lanes (hot from The Press this morning). The busway option not only shaves 10 minutes plus off the journey twice a day (multiplied by a several million journeys measured across 25 year), it also creates wonderous comfort and superior pleasure to run straight into the heart of the city without stopping. The loop from Radcliffe Road to Grimseys Road, also provides an all day, all stops access as well (non-express buses,still quicker than other routes and every hour, everyday) from city to Grimseys Road and from Grimseys Road to Styx. Or city and St Albans to new Belfast industrial areas. Give buses the gutsy advantage!! As the blonde dame whispered in this rabbit's ear (hey, that's a lot ear!) "Think Rail, Build Bus, Buddy".  Its cheaper, faster, more frequent, more flexible, it creates the corridor for light rail of the future, if that is ever necessary; it can be built to handle100-passenger plus passenger articulated buses in the interim, if that is necessary. The rabbit takes nothing for the case solved but tells the dame, it will only cost you high tens of millions to solve this case - daunting yeah, but only a tiny fraction of the cost to build the multi-billion dollar [no joke] transport infrastructure of Auckland partly paved with Canterbury dollars. Putting two and two together the rabbit can't see why a city three and half times our size is being bankrolled by Government for about twenty times more infrastructure funding!

The Green-Darling family may talk the talk, perhaps one day they will walk the walk. This rabbit guesses they may have to walk! If fuel becomes too dear to waste on work commutes from outer areas and no second strata of express bus corridors has been put in place to keep the city intimately connected, hub to outer circumference and beyond. Overcrowded buses jamming up through Papanui -Northlands, Victoria Street on outbound journeys instead of fast direct journeys OR an amazing city to zip around. Rabbit sees a city that has always done bus well doing bus superbly, bus laned arterials past the malls interspersed by direct outer area-city free flow corridors completely by-passing congestion. This weren't no dumb blonde, no wild goose chase. 

ps. Basham up? Not more lurid crime? Not at all. Top marks to see that bus routes have already been factored in for the new Basham subdivision out Hei Hei way (pity about the area name though!)

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